The first 2019 episode of SmackDown Live also gave us the first official main event of WWE’s calendar year. The main event pitted AJ Styles, Randy Orton, Mustafa Ali, Rey Mysterio, and Samoa Joe against each other in a Fatal 5 Way match to determine who will face Daniel Bryan at Royal Rumble for the WWE Championship. While Styles came out as the winner, it was Mustafa Ali’s star who truly shined.
Last night’s main event put Mustafa Ali in the ring with four former World Heavyweight Champions (across different promotions). While the match served as an outlet where The Phenomenal One could showcase a new aggressive style as “The Real AJ Styles,” all eyes were on Ali for his biggest test since joining the WWE SmackDown roster last month. Much like on the night of his SDLive debut, Ali passed the test with flying colors.
For Ali, last night was less about a win for him and more about showcasing himself to prove that he belonged in SmackDown’s main event picture – to show audiences that he’s more than just this week’s flavor of the month or a mere flash in the pan. In a ring with four future Hall of Famers, Ali never looked out of place for one second.
Presented as an underdog on the rise, the former Heart of 205 Live was able to believably hold his own against four legends despite being the most outmatched man in the ring. Granted, he didn’t do so without taking some lumps on the head, perhaps more than anyone else in the match. Especially during the match’s climax which saw Ali receive a Coquina Clutch, 619, and an RKO all in quick succession one after another.
What helped Ali stand out was the fact that he was able to withstand everything that was thrown at him. For every punch thrown his way, he hit harder. For every Hurricanrana he suffered, he bounced back with a dive or a Spanish Fly. Ali displayed the perfect makings of an underdog and that alone can take him far on the main roster.
While his never say die wrestling style is nothing new for viewers who watched him on 205 Live, Ali gave new SmackDown audiences a taste of what he’s capable of in high stakes settings. While he didn’t win the match, Ali didn’t come out of it looking like a loser. In fact, after seeing that it took three finishers from three men to finally knock Ali off of his feet, it would be easy to believe that Ali could’ve pulled an upset on any other given night against these guys.
2018 was a breakout year for Mustafa Ali and with performances like this remaining consistent, the man is heading towards another banger year in 2019. If he keeps passing tests and impressing viewers like this every week, a title win could be in Mustafa Ali’s future before the year closes out.